Using Light to Recover from Sports and Exercise-Related Injuries

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It’s normal to experience inflammation after a workout, especially if you’re injured or strained. Acute inflammation is a natural part of the body’s recovery and healing process. But if your body is out of balance and you don’t fully recover from previous injuries and workouts, you can develop chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation limits function and makes it more painful to work out, and more difficult to recover.

This article is about inflammation in athletics & performance, and how red light therapy supports healthier training and recovery. We also take a look at some of the elite pro athletes and sports medicine professionals using Joovv devices to manage inflammation and enhance recovery.

Inflammation 101

If you train or play sports, you’ve probably experienced inflammation after a strenuous workout, or from an injury. Inflammation isn’t just a symptom, though, it’s a complex (and necessary) process that takes place in every living thing. You can think of inflammation as your body’s programmed response to danger or strain.

Check out this article to learn more about the basics of inflammation.

With exercise and athletics, inflammation is a response to muscle damage. The term “damage” makes it sound dangerous, but this is how muscle tissue grows: microtears from exercise are repaired in order for muscle tissues to get stronger. [1] The acute inflammation you experience when you exercise is part of this normal process of growth and repair.

If you don’t recover properly after workouts, or don’t fully heal from an injury or strain, that acute inflammation could become chronic over time and limit your performance. It can be a vicious cycle if you're always trying to recover and heal from injuries while taking on new damage and strain.

This is one reason proper recovery is so important to athletes who are regularly putting their bodies under strenuous conditions. Being able to heal properly and efficiently regenerate damaged tissues can become a competitive advantage.

Red Light Therapy and Inflammation

Red light therapy treatments are part of a healthy lifestyle, and can help support bodily balance & enhanced cellular function. Like exercise, diet, and restful sleep, healthy light intake can have a big impact on managing inflammation and injuries.

What is Red Light Therapy? Red light therapy, also known as photobiomodulation (PBM) or low level laser therapy (LLLT), is a simple, non-invasive treatment that uses LEDs to deliver wavelengths of red and near infrared (NIR) light directly to the skin and cells. Red light therapy allows a person to supplement the sunlight they get from their environment with concentrated wavelengths of red and NIR light. This helps supply the mitochondria in your cells with the light needed to boost ATP energy synthesis and power your body. 

You can learn more about the basics of red light therapy here.

Red Light Therapy’s Effects on Inflammation: Red and near infrared light act as a very mild form of stress that activates protective mechanisms in the cells. When these light wavelengths hit the skin and penetrate into the cells, mitochondria make energy more efficiently. This boosts the production of pro- and anti-inflammatories, and disease-fighting antioxidants that accelerate the healing process. [2] Red light therapy also supports general cellular balance, for more efficient healing. It can also reduce inflammation by improving blood flow to damaged tissues. [2] When cells receive the healthy light they need, the whole body has the potential to work more efficiently, with improved circulation and decreased inflammation.

Athletic Recovery and Inflammation: In sports and training, recovery is a key element of performance and muscle damage prevention. Elite athletes have to be able to preserve themselves and limit strain. Sports medicine professionals look at two main indicators when assessing an athlete's ability to return to play: pain and inflammation, which are present in nearly every common sports injury. [3] Athletes who recover from minor injuries and inflammation more efficiently have a better chance to be successful for longer periods of time.

Recovery+ In 2020, Joovv introduced Recovery+ mode with pulsed NIR light to optimize the body’s natural recovery and healing processes. It’s the ideal light therapy setting to support recovery after a workout or injury. It’s also a great way to use light therapy to support inflammation relief. The pro athletes and trainers using Joovv for peak performance and recovery were on the top of our mind when we designed Recovery+.

Below, we look at some of the leading athletes, trainers, and sports medicine professionals using Joovv red light therapy to enhance recovery and performance.

Elite Athletes and Trainers Use Joovv Red Light Therapy for Recovery

Elliot Williams is the Director of Functional Performance for the San Francisco 49ers. He compares the body’s inflammation response to the check engine light on a car.

“Inflammation is simply a message to the body that things aren’t right,” says Williams. “I believe that red light therapy helps the photosynthetic process the body undergoes to rid toxins, and helps increase the production of ATP energy. This stimulates renewal at the cellular level, thus lessening the prevalence of inflammation.”

The San Francisco 49ers use Joovv devices to help their players recover and heal after grueling games in the NFL. Inflammation reduction and efficient injury recovery are two of the biggest reasons the 49ers built a Joovv Recovery Room in Levi’s Stadium.

Dr. Patrick Khaziran is the founder of Sports Rehab LA in Encino, CA, where his team specializes in the rehabilitation of sports injuries. Dr. Patrick has treated hundreds of professional athletes in the NBA, NFL, MLB, Champions, Pro Bowlers, All-Stars and future Hall of Famers across the wide world of sports. His treatment philosophy has helped some of the best athletes in the world return to play after suffering potential career-ending injuries.

“Our three core treatments are compression, ice, and healthy light exposure,” said Dr. Patrick Khaziran. “Those are the three. They work. They’re perfect. It’s amazing, it’s simple: it’s getting the blood to flow, getting the hormones to kick in.”

You can check out more of the professional athletes, trainers, and sports medicine practitioners who use Joovv on our community page.

Conclusion: Red Light Therapy Supports Recovery and Healing

Inflammation is normal and natural when you exercise or get injured. But if your body is out of balance, and you’re not able to properly recover, you can develop problems with chronic inflammation that limits your athletic performance. Getting enough healthy light is key for exercise recovery, and for powering your body to work through the natural inflammatory response. As documented in a variety of clinical studies, r light therapy enhances cellular performance, improves blood flow to damaged tissues, and supports natural inflammation reduction. Moreso, Joovv’s red light therapy devices include Recovery+ mode, an ideal setting to optimize athletic and post-workout recovery. 

Sources and References:

[1] Conceição MS, Vechin FC, Lixandrão M, Damas F, Libardi CA, Tricoli V, Roschel H, Camera D, Ugrinowitsch C. Muscle Fiber Hypertrophy and Myonuclei Addition: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2018 Jul.

[2] Hamblin M. “Mechanisms and applications of the anti-inflammatory effects of photobiomodulation”. AIMS Biophys. 2017

[3] John Foley, David B Vasily, et al. 830 nm light-emitting diode (led) phototherapy significantly reduced return-to-play in injured university athletes: a pilot study. Laser Therapy. 2016 March